Misogyny in Things Fall Apart is not too different from Conrad and Racism

It is difficult to read Things Fall Apart without being very disgusted with the gender roles and the attitudes towards women in Umuofia. Okwonko’s treatment of his wives as lesser, weaker, stupid beings is unacceptable. His behaviour is very reminiscent of Blanca’s abusive husband in Until the Dawn’s Light.

Coming to terms with the misogyny in the novel, I am confused as to what Achebe is doing. Ultimately you could say the book is simply being historically accurate. Gender roles were probably just like that in Nigerian villages of the 1890s. Instances of misogyny are just part of the setting or “context”. However, wouldn’t he be doing the same thing as Conrad, whom he criticizes extensively?

Achebe did not like how Conrad depicted black people as primitive beings, “not inhuman” or sometimes mere body parts. Achebe says it is wrong for Conrad to use this racism as a background for his own story about European colonization. It seems to me that Achebe is then doing the same thing: using sexism as a way to tell his story about Okwonko’s damaged personality.

Apart from this, I am not even sure if either are wrong. If you write about something horrible taking place (racism, misogyny) is that the same as advocating for it? What does worry me is how quotes like “the birth of her children, which should be a woman’s crowing glory…” sound like statements of fact (77). This is said not by Okwonko, a character who we know is flawed, but the narrator.

Overall however, the novel has a lot to offer and I have enjoyed learning about Nigerian tribal culture in a very close-up and detailed way.

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